Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki is one of the most feared and prolific race teams in motorcycle racing. Any doubters to the claim only have to open the door to the ‘PC’ facility in Corona, California and walk into reception. The first thing that comes into view is a line of race bikes. A long line. Almost one for the all the 29 AMA championships they have totalled in 25 years of existence; 2016 bringing the crew up to a quarter of a century setting new boundaries for technical excellence, performance and - ultimately – ‘delivery’.
Walking past the Hondas (for two years) and then Kawasakis and watching the development through two-stroke, four-stroke, fuel injection, carbon, titanium, air forks, electronics, start devices; the march of Pro Circuit innovation as a technical specialist and tuner is matched by the heavy-weight roster of the athletes that saw the team as the essential stepping stone: McGrath, Pichon, Brown, Carmichael, Stewart, Pourcel, Villopoto, Langston, Townley, Wilson and many more. Behind the locked doors and workspace created, patrolled and controlled by owner and victory-addict Mitch Payton is a cosmopolitan squad of ten people and five riders hand-picked and then negotiating a relentless racing calendar that will involve seventeen supercross races, twelve ‘outdoor’ motocross rounds of the national series and other events like the Monster Energy Cup and the annual Motocross of Nations (if one of the Pro Circuit riders is selected for their country).
Pro Circuit have become an institution in off-road motorcycle racing, not just in the USA but globally as the brand has become allied with supremacy. The Corona reception area acts as part-shop, part museum and part ‘waiting area’ with fans, clients and media coming through the tinted glass on a frequent basis. Pro Circuit’s track record is stunning in itself but add the important connection to Team Green’s youth development scheme (exciting seventeen year old Austin Forkner is the latest sensation to bound off the line) origins with Monster Energy that go back to the first days of the company and European links in MXGP means they are something of a behemoth. Stories about the operation have circulated for years; Payton, as the chief whip-cracker, mandating a level of dedication and achievement to match his own lofty expectations but then also playing a fatherly role and nurturing the best out of imported talent to AMA competition like Frenchman, Kiwis, South Africans, Brits and even a Swiss. Guiding enigmatic and individual stars like Christophe Pourcel and Josh Hansen among others. Stories of how defeat can float a ‘dark cloud’ through the Californian blue skies and over the workshop (and it has been quite ‘overcast’ in Corona the last four years), and - conversely - how victory is celebrated with ‘Pizza Mondays’ for the entire firm. One of the lesser-told traits of Pro Circuit is the diverse collection of mechanics and technicians that form the tightly-knit race crew. “We’ve had Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans, French; this team has a good continental twang throughout,” says Briton Olly Stone now a four year ‘vet’ of and a mechanic who realised a lifetime dream to be under Payton’s wing. “I guess Mitch just keeps an open mind.”
To get a grasp on what it feels like to selected and then hit the ground running in one of American motocross’ strongholds we asked both Stone and Frenchman Jon Primo to talk a bit about their experiences at Pro Circuit and just as the 2016 AMA Pro National motocross series starts to gather pace (Joey Savatgy already securing their first overall triumph of the campaign with a win at Hangtown for the season opener).